April 10, 2021 2:36:04 pm
After a Right to Information (RTI) reply was denied to a teacher by the College of Vocational Studies (CVS) regarding the alleged “irregularities” in the purchase of library books, the Central Information Commission (CIC) said the college seemed to be “withholding information” and had “failed to regard the tenets of probity and transparency”.
The Indian Express had reported in September 2020 on how 180 books worth Rs 1 lakh had been bought for the library but never reached it. In March this year, Retd Delhi High Court judge, Justice S N Dhingra, upheld that there had been “irregularities” and indicted the principal for hushing up the matter.
The appellant, Anand Kumar, had filed the RTI in March 2019 seeking details of the date of purchase of the books, their accession numbers, and the exchange rate at which foreign books were purchased among other things, for the period 2010-18.
In response, the CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) said, “It is to be mentioned that the information requested by the applicant is not maintained in the manner requested by the applicant as it is not required to be maintained for the day to day functioning of the college. Compilation of such information exclusively for the applicant would disproportionately divert the resources of the office concerned which is not required under the Act.”
After the first appeal also didn’t yield a response, Kumar then filed the second appeal with the CIC. In her decision on April 5, Information Commissioner Saroj Punhani said that even if the college did not have information in the format that it was asked, CVS should have “offered an inspection of the available and relevant form of records to the Appellant in his original reply itself to uphold the letter and spirit of the RTI Act”.
“The outright refusal of the CPIO to provide the information, even the information about the exchange rate of the books, regarding which a relevant input has been provided by the Respondent only before the hearing, suggests a rather evasive and laboured approach of the Respondent office in withholding the information given the alleged context in which the instant RTI Application has been filed by the Appellant,” she said.
“The Respondent office through its CPIO has failed to regard the tenets of probity and transparency particularly in a matter which has been clearly inviting the ire of the teacher and student community of CVS,” she said.
While Kumar had asked for data for eight years, the CIC said information for 2016-18 should be made available for his inspection on a “mutually decided date and time”.
“The said directions should be complied with by the CPIO within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order and a compliance report to this effect be duly sent to the Commission stipulating the details of the inspection provided and copy of the documents provided thereof,” Punhani said.
The Commission also “advised” the Vice-Chancellor and CVS principal to look into the matter.
While Delhi University Vice-Chancellor P C Joshi could not be reached for comment, Principal Inderjeet Dagar said, “I have directed the CPIO to look into the matter as per the directions of the CIC and the said process is ongoing, and we are also seeking legal recourse on the same. The college has always respected the spirit of the RTI and always provided information even to serial applicants filing as many as 500 RTI applications.”
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